Hoffman's Houston
up against southside

West U driver reveals how to dismiss ticket in notorious local traffic court

West U driver reveals how to dismiss ticket in notorious traffic court

Ken Hoffman Southside Place speed sign
A local driver fought this local traffic court — and won.  Photo by Ken Hoffman

They say you can’t fight City Hall, but my buddy, local magazine publisher George Boehme says you can fight — and beat — traffic court. That's if you do your research and can convince the prosecutor that your speeding ticket was issued incorrectly, unfairly, and Boehme claims, illegally.

This won't qualify as a script for NBC's Law and Order, but here goes. Back in 2017, Boehme received a speeding ticket from a Southside Place officer for driving 35 mph in the school zone on Bellaire Boulevard at 8:47 am. Southside Place’s school zone speed limit is 20 mph on that stretch of Bellaire Boulevard.

No nonsense in Southside Place
Southside Place has a reputation for no-nonsense enforcement of school zone speeding. I routinely hear from drivers who squawk about getting slapped with a speeding ticket on the street in front of St. Mark’s Episcopal School. I also know some Southside Place residents who applaud the city's effort to keep cars driving at safe speeds near the school.

Boehme plunged into the state's school zone law and, he says, discovered that Southside Place improperly enforces the St. Mark’s Episcopal School zone. According to Boehme, the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Procedures for Establishing School Zones” states that “zones indicated on signs should be in effect … from approximately 45 minutes before school opens until classes begin” and for “a 30-minute period beginning at the close of school.” Southside Place enforces its 20-mph school zone speed limit from 7:30 to 9 am and from 2 to 4:15 pm.

Southside Place is a wealthy city next door to nearly as wealthy West University Place. Southside Place is tiny, barely .2 square miles, yet generates $470,000 worth of traffic tickets, according to its published budget for 2020. I know, first world problems. 

St. Mark’s school starts at 8 am. Boehme said the “maximum effective time” for the morning school zone should be 7:15 to 8 am. Since he was written up for doing 35 mph, the normal posted speed limit, at 8:47 am, Boehme decided to challenge the ticket at Southside Place traffic court. 

Fighting the power
“I pleaded ‘not guilty’ and asked for a jury trial,” Boehme says. “The prosecutor asked me what my defense was. I showed him the state regulations. He told me I was correct and dismissed the ticket. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the many drivers with a similar set of facts who weren’t so lucky.” Boehme says, between two court appearances and research, he spent about seven hours fighting his speeding ticket. He told his war story in a recent edition of his Bellaire – West University Essentials magazine.

I asked Boehme why he waited three years to go public with his battle with Southside Place over a speeding ticket. “I have tried to ignore this issue for years hoping that Southside Place, a delightful town, would do the right thing and quietly change its policy to conform with state requirements. But it has been a long wait,” he says.

Boehme’s advice for drivers who receive a speeding ticket on Bellaire Boulevard after 8 am: “If you get a school zone speeding ticket that does not conform with the TDT requirements, Google ‘Procedures for Establishing School Zones.’ Make a copy of Chapter 2, Section 4 – School Zone Speeds and take it to court with you. It is only two pages long and the language is quite clear.”

An attempt at change
Boehme says he met with Southside Place city manager David Moss and police chief Don McCall in an effort to get the city to change its school zone policy. Boehme says that Moss and McCall claimed that the school zone along Bellaire Boulevard also applies to Pershing Middle School.

Boehme responded by showing that Pershing is located hundreds of feet beyond the TDT requirement for school zone enforcement on Bellaire Boulevard. In fact, he showed that there are “School Zone Ends” signs between Pershing and Bellaire Boulevard. He hopes that Southside Place will replace speed limit signs in the near future to conform with state requirements.

In the meantime, he says that Southside Place should reimburse drivers who received improperly issued speeding tickets in the past.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

Southside's side of it
To be fair, I made several attempts to contact Southside Place city manager Moss. Specifically, I asked him:

1. Does he agree with Boehme's assertion that Southside Place improperly issues school zone speeding tickets?
2. Will Southside Place change its times of school zone enforcement?
3. Since the city’s prosecutor dismissed Boehme’s speeding ticket, shouldn’t Southside Place dismiss all school zone speeding tickets written after 8 am?

Moss initially said he would forward my questions to the city traffic engineer. However, neither Moss nor the traffic engineer got back to me. 

Personal note: Here’s how I deal with the school zone in Southside Place. I simply avoid driving on that street at all cost. By the way, the cost of a school zone ticket in Southside Place is $167 if you qualify and take Defensive Driving, plus the cost of taking the course.

I also avoid driving on San Felipe Street, but for a different reason.

Even after all these years, I’m not 100-percent sure how you pronounce “San Felipe” correctly.